Dallas played much of their first team the first two series of the game, including Dak Prescott (7-8 for 106 yards, 1 TD/0 INT). The Colts, of course, were without Andrew Luck. So the Colts never had a prayer in this game. Dallas marched right down the field for a score on the first drive. They came back and marched right down the field on their second drive for what should’ve been a 14 – 0 lead but Darren McFadden fumbled near the goal line. Soon after, back up quarterback Kellen Moore fumbled near his own goal line leading to a scoop and score for Indy. In the game that should’ve started at minimum 14–0 Dallas, it was 7-7.
The Colts eventually took the lead in this game…aided by four fumbles in the game that all bounced to the Colts — whether their own or Dallas’s…and further aided by a blocked field goal by a Dallas backup kicker. I remember all these details because I bet this game at -5.0 for Dallas, and snuck out a push when I should’ve been cashing in some serious Chipotle money.
Degenerate gambling aside, Dallas was the superior team here and Prescott and the first unit looked pretty solid. Conversely, the Colts defense didn’t look much improved. Would anybody have expected differently?
Fantasy player notes…
— The main story player from this game was the debut of Colts rookie RB Marlon Mack (5-45-0, 2-14-0/3).
Frank Gore started, for as our own Jason Katz stated ‘reasons‘, and took the first two plays of the first series. Come third down — in came Robert Turbin. For the time that Gore was playing, this was the Indianapolis plan – and I think it’s the plan for opening day…Gore on first and second down and Turbin on third downs – Turbin is the least sexy third down back you can probably think of, but he is a third-down back nonetheless and that’s what I was projecting to happen when I named him as a ‘very deep sleeper’ months ago for fantasy 2017.
There are two problems with getting too hopeful on Robert Turbin now…
1) Without Andrew Luck, you can take all these offensive fantasy options and put it in a dumpster and set it on fire…for fantasy purposes. The loss of center Ryan Kelly is also a major problem.
2) I dismissed Marlon Mack as a serious factor in the rotation for 2017, but it may be time to reconsider – especially after watching his debut performance against Dallas.
We need to see more body of work working with the first team against first team defenses, but I thought Mack’s debut was pretty impressive. It’s beyond obvious that Mack is the fastest, quickest running back in the Colts stable… that’s assuming Troymaine Pope will be cut. It’s not much of a competition with aging Gore and mediocre Turbin, but that’s the great upside opportunity with Mack — he only has to get past Turbin to see touches, and then Gore cannot be long for this football world.
If the Colts were having a normal year with a healthy Andrew Luck working in the preseason to get ready for a playoff push, I wouldn’t get too excited about Mack for 2017 because the Colts would prefer to go with their veteran, experienced RBs/better blockers to help him. But with Luck on the shelf for 1–3 –? games — why not push up the timetable on more on Mack? He maybe too good to hold back…relative to his competition.
I thought Mack was OK as an athlete coming out of college, a capable receiver, and would have some issues working between the tackles. His college career was filled with promising numbers, but within the numbers, there were several weak performances against better opponents. Mack, like many NFL RB prospects, has the athleticism to belong in the league, but their ultimate success will rest with the quality of the offensive line they play with…and how much draft status they carry. Mack is good, but I think in a bad situation…but suddenly the situation may favor him if the season turns dark. In addition, Mack looked speedy and confident in this brief debut…better than I recall from watching his college work. I am moving my projections for Mack a touch higher.
— There are running backs to talk about from the other team in this game as well, and the discussion may be much more fantasy pertinent — because we all believe the main running back for Dallas, behind their offensive line, will be an RB1 stud. For the opposite effect, I can’t get as excited about Marlon Mack’s 2017.
After every Dallas preseason game, post-Ezekiel suspension, it’s like calling a horse race — we have to comment on where the horses are at in relation to being Dallas’s Week 1 starter. Here’s where I think the race is at today…
Darren McFadden (9-59-0) looks better every week…almost as if he needed to get in shape or get the juices following since his sluggish debut in the Hall of Fame game. Jerry Jones loves him, McFadden has the experience, and now looks to be in in in season form. He starting to pull several links away from the pack.
At the same time, Alfred Morris (9-49-0), who looked like Dallas’s best running back at the Hall of Fame game, appears like the jockey is pulling back on the reigns. Either everyone else got quicker or Morris has gotten slower. He looks fine, but he’s missing that little pop he seemed to have in his step at times last year and in the Hall of Fame game. He’s capable enough, but he’s losing ground fast.
It’s the horse coming up from way back on the outside that you need to consider — that metaphorical horse is Rod Smith (7-53-0, 3-27-0/4).
Smith has had an interesting NFL journey. Underwhelming career at Ohio State, and for the most part written off by the draft community. He didn’t even have workout numbers to consider for 2015.
Smith got a long shot tryout with Seattle as a rookie in 2015 and really impressed the team out of nowhere with his athleticism, size, and skills. Being nowhere near ready for the NFL, Smith hit the practice squad. However, because of need and because he was good enough – he jumped to Seattle’s main roster for a moment…and then back to the practice squad. Dallas was also RB desperate and impressed enough with Smith to steal him from Seattle – and if Dallas personnel genius Will McClay is stealing someone from the very good Seattle GM John Schnieder, we should all probably stop and consider. Further endorsement for Smith is the fact that he continues to stick with the Cowboys since being poached from Seattle’s practice squad.
Smith was being converted to FB in 2017 because of the log jam in the backfield for Dallas as it was. However, suddenly, he’s been getting more touches because of the Elliott’s suspension. Everyone noted he looked good at the HOF game a few weeks ago, but he was working essentially 3rd-4th team. In this particular game, you started to see signs that Smith might be the most talented (but less experienced) RB option of the three behind Ezekiel. Smith has the size/speed to run with power but has the athleticism to make some things happen with the ball – including being a very competent receiver. With his size and speed and receiving ability – he’s a very interesting option/weapon.
I don’t believe the Cowboys will just push Smith to the head of the line. Smith has never been in the spotlight, so it would be too radical on this good of a team for Smith to leapfrog everyone. However I could see him being slowly integrated into the mix as the hammer runner Weeks 1-2 and then being so impressive he works into a split with Darren McFadden – rendering DMC nothing like what anyone hoped in Ezekiel’s absence. I think that risk is firmly on the table. I also think the long shot potential that McFadden slips on a bar soap in Week 1 would force Dallas to give Smith the ball as a primary. It also means Alfred Morris is likely to be in the back of the line or possibly cut when Ezekiel comes back… Maybe released before Week 1. The improvement and emergence of Smith is a risk to McFadden and probably soul crushing to any Alfred Morris long shot hopes.
— I watched several linebackers in this game for different reasons…
We got the much-ballyhooed debut of Jaylon Smith (1 tackle) in this game. The thing you always have to remember about NFL scouting is that the Jan-Feb scouting by the mainstream is a total disaster. I mean, it’s almost like they go out of their way to be so wrong. You get the Laquon Treadwell, Johnny Manziel Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Jonathan Allen, Sharrif Floyd…type of prospects who are the consensus #1 overall for many notable draft analysts in the early scouting — and then the players inevitably fall in the draft as more study happens…and the players go on to be massive busts in the NFL. With that in mind – Jaylon Smith was a ‘can’t miss’, top prospect of the 2016 NFL Draft early on in the process before his injury news got worse. All the signs of a bad scouting evaluation are here – early love by the mainstream, and went to Notre Dame so he was hyped by Mike Mayock…proveyor of Will Fuller 2016 first rounder. Anyone remember Manti Te’o as ‘the greatest’? I’m not making fun of Notre Dame – I making fun of the analysts who promote players just because of ‘Notre Dame’ and then the NFL GM suckers buy it. From there we can get Jaylon Smith…and thus we’re supposed to be excited about his return.
Scouting him in 2016, I didn’t see anything really spectacular on tape. He’s good. He belongs in the NFL, I guess, but no one knows his real measurables. He doesn’t seem like an extreme athlete and he did not blow me away with his play at Notre Dame – no more than overrated Manti Te’o.
Watching Smith in his NFL debut, I still didn’t see it. I saw a skinny inside linebacker running around flapping his arms…not a smooth, fluid machine. It’s too early to make a definitive call on Smith because he hasn’t played in two years and we don’t know the measurables at all. We’re flying mostly off of tape scouting and output analytics from college. If I needed to bet today, I bet against Smith being a high impact player… But I’m open to being wrong because of the scattered data on this one.
On the Colts’ side, I was watching supposed starter IDP LB Anthony Morrison (4 tackles)– who I absolutely do not get as an NFL starter, and I think he’ll be benched quickly…and looking here didn’t change my opinion.
I like scrappy 2nd-year free agent/waiver pick up ILB Luke Rhodes (9 tackles), and he led the game in tackles, but he’s a little more of a scrapper and not as much an obvious NFL starter at this point.
Colts draft pick rookie Anthony Walker (5 tackles) is really the cleanest linebacker talent the Colts have among their young LB group. If I was betting for IDP on any Colts’ young linebacker – I bet it with Walker.
— Just a quick note on Dallas third string quarterback Cooper Rush (8-9 for 92 yards, 2 TD/0 INT) — I wasn’t all that impressed with his college work, but he’s played not so bad the last few weeks. He’s not super sleeper, but he’s looked better than most destined to be cut preseason QB prospects
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